Alert! Landmark Settlement in ACB's Lawsuit against GSA for Inaccessible Website


Ardis
 

Contact:       Erin Corbin Meszaros                      Eric Bridges

Matthew Handley

                        Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP    American Council of the

Blind     Washington Lawyers’ Committee       404.407.5030

202.467.5081                      202.319.1000

erin.meszaros@...

ebridges@...

matthew_handley@...

Sutherland and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

Reach Landmark Settlement with General Services Administration

on Behalf of Blind Federal Contractors and the American Council of the Blind

WASHINGTON (November 10, 2015) – Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP

is pleased to announce that the firm, in conjunction with the

Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

, has reached a settlement with the General Services Administration (GSA) on behalf

of three blind federal contractors and the American Council of the Blind (ACB). The

settlement will benefit all blind federal contractors.

Resolving an 18-month effort to make the GSA-operated website

SAM.gov

accessible to blind federal contractors, the settlement requires GSA to make significant

changes to

SAM.gov

that had prevented blind federal contractors from accessing the website and maintaining

their status as federal contractors.  The accessibility issues were identified by

the plaintiffs and confirmed by a web accessibility expert.  Following GSA’s implementation

of the agreed-to changes, the website will undergo review by another independent

accessibility expert. In addition, the agreement creates a process by which members

of the blind community will test and provide feedback on future changes to

SAM.gov

.

According to Sutherland partner and co-chair of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee,

Lewis S. Wiener

, “This is an excellent result not only for our clients, but for the blind community

as a whole. The Internet is part of our daily lives, and being unable to access any

website—much less a website that is essential to doing business with the federal

government—puts members of the blind community at an economic disadvantage. It is

unfortunate that it took the filing of a lawsuit to bring about meaningful change

but we thank GSA for working collaboratively with us and our clients to make

SAM.gov

accessible.”

“We are very pleased with this settlement,” said Matthew Handley

, Director of Litigation for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. “It ensures that

blind contractors have equal access to a website that is essential to their livelihoods,

and that the website will remain accessible in the future. Everyone, including the

blind community, deserves access to the Internet, which has become a means for independence,

information and commerce.”

Kim Charlson

, President of the ACB, stated, “On behalf of the American Council of the Blind (ACB),

I want to acknowledge the excellent support received from Sutherland and the Washington

Lawyers’ Committee in arriving at this landmark settlement. I am very pleased that

GSA is being held accountable for making

SAM.gov

accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. As a result of this settlement,

it is my expectation that our community will not encounter access barriers with other

GSA sites in the future.”

In April 2014, Sutherland and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee filed a putative

class action in federal district court in the District of Columbia against GSA, the

federal agency responsible for administering the federal government’s non-defense

contracts, alleging that GSA failed to provide a website accessible to blind federal

contractors, who, like almost all federal contractors, must register and annually

renew their federal contractor registration on

SAM.gov

.

The

complaint

, filed on behalf of three federal contractors and the ACB, alleged that

SAM.gov

was incompatible with most screen reading software that many blind individuals,

including the plaintiffs in this case, rely on to navigate the Internet. As a result,

the plaintiffs alleged that GSA discriminated against blind federal contractors,

who could not register or renew their registration on

SAM.gov

, which they are required to do under federal law.

Sutherland became involved in the case through the Washington Lawyers’ Committee,

which helped two of the individual plaintiffs file administrative complaints against

GSA to no avail.

In addition to Mr. Wiener, the plaintiffs were represented by Sutherland associate

Charles M. Kruly

and former Sutherland associate

Amanda R. Callais.

Sutherland has a long and distinguished history of commitment to pro bono work, tracing

back nearly 100 years to the firm's founders.

ABOUT THE AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND

The American Council of the Blind is the largest consumer-based organization of blind

and visually impaired Americans advocating for the rights of blind Americans. Comprised

of more than 70 affiliates across the United States, the organization is dedicated

to making it possible for blind and visually impaired Americans to participate fully

in all aspects of American society. For more information, visit

www.acb.org

.

ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs for over 45

years has represented both individuals and groups seeking to vindicate their civil

rights. It has handled over 5,000 civil rights cases, in employment, housing, public

accommodations, and other aspects of urban life. It represents people with claims

of discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, disability, age, religion,

and sexual orientation. Leveraging its own broad expertise in discrimination litigation

with the resources of Washington, D.C.’s private bar, the Committee’s litigation

efforts have become nationally known for landmark court victories, record judgments

and precedent-setting consent decrees. Its capacity to mobilize the private bar has

made it possible for the Committee to provide its clients with more than 50,000 hours

of quality legal representation every year.

ABOUT SUTHERLAND ASBILL & BRENNAN LLP

Sutherland is an international legal service provider helping the world’s largest

companies, industry leaders, sector innovators and business entrepreneurs solve their

biggest challenges and reach their business goals. More than 435 lawyers across seven

major practice areas—corporate, energy and environmental, financial services, intellectual

property, litigation, real estate and tax—provide the framework for an extensive

range of focus areas. Sutherland is composed of associated legal practices that are

separate entities, doing business in the United States as Sutherland Asbill & Brennan

LLP, and as Arbis Sutherland LLP in London and Geneva. Arbis Sutherland LLP is a

limited liability partnership and is registered in England and Wales with registered

number OC348198. Its registered office is at Marble Quay, St. Katharine’s Dock, London

E1W 1UH. Arbis Sutherland LLP is authorized and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation

Authority of England and Wales whose regulatory requirements can be accessed at

http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/code/content.page

. A list of the members of Arbis Sutherland LLP and their professional qualifications

is open to inspection at its registered office.

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Ardis Bazyn

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